Yankees All-Star and Gold Glove first baseman Joe Pepitone has died.
He was 82.
The Associated Press reported that Pepitone was found dead at his daughter’s home in Kanas City, Missouri, where he lived. A cause of death has not been released, but his son believes the former ballplayer died of a heart attack.
The Yankees said on Twitter that Pepitone’s “playful and charismatic personality and on-field contributions made him a favorite of generations of Yankees fans even beyond his years with the team in the 1960s.”
Statement from The New York Yankees on the passing of Joe Pepitone: pic.twitter.com/XckqVACsfa— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 13, 2023
Pepitone was born in Brooklyn and attended Manual Training High School before signing with the Yankees in 1958. He eventually made his big league debut in 1962 and helped the team get to its second World Series championship, the AP reported.
Known as Pepi, The New York Times reported he had a renegade nature. He would make jokes in the locker room and would go back and forth with fans. He was unlike other Yankees who had a more reserved style, instead sporting long hair. He was the first player to bring a hair dryer into the locker room. He added to his hair using toupees, the Times reported.
The hair dryer was given to the Baseball Reliquary and was on display in 2004 at Burbank Central Library during its exhibition, “The Times They Were A-Changin’: Baseball in the Age of Aquarius,” the AP reported.
Pepitone was an All-Star for three consecutive years from 1963 to 1965, and hit 27 home runs in 1963, 28 in 1964, 18 in 1965 and 31 in 1966. He also played more than 400 games over his 12 years in the MLB.
But not all went the way the Yankees would have wanted. In 1963, the Yankees lost the championship when the Los Angeles Dodgers swept them, including when Pepitone committed an error. The Yankees also lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals the next year, the Times reported.
Pepitone went on to play for the Houston Astros, the Chicago Cubs, and finally, the Atlanta Braves in 1973. He even played in Japan for 14 games and frequently appeared at Yankee Stadium for alumni events, CNN reported.
Pepitone left the game with 219 home runs and a career average of .258, the Times reported.
He played just as hard or harder off the field, with late-night outings and big spending. He was a hit with the ladies at nightclubs such as the Copacabana.
His self-destructive antics were also in play on the field. He told Rolling Stone in 2015 that fans at Cubs games would toss marijuana and cocaine packets at him while he was in the outfield and he would stash the drugs in the ivy covering the wall, the Times reported.
“Used to be I was always the first person at the ballpark, and the first one to leave; next thing you know, people are wondering why I’m hanging out at the ballpark so long,” Pepitone told Rolling Stone. When asked, he told manager Leo Durocher that he was at the stadium so late for rubdowns from the trainer, but that wasn’t the real story.
“Then I’d be out in center field with my shorts on, looking through the ivy to find my dope,” he said. “I loved Chicago!”
Pepitone’s drug use landed him in jail at Rikers Island for four months in 1988 after he was convicted of two misdemeanor drug charges, the AP reported. He also was arrested in 1992 for a fight at a Catskills resort after someone called him a “washed-up nobody.” In 1995, Pepitone pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, the AP reported.
Pepitone is survived by five children, two brothers, several grandchildren and at least one great-grandchildren, the Times reported.
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